1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brescia

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BRESCIA (anc. Brixia), a city and episcopal see of Lombardy, Italy, the capital of the province of Brescia, finely situated at the foot of the Alps, 52 m. E. of Milan and 40 m. W. of Verona by rail. Pop. (1901) town, 42,495; commune, 72,731. The plan of the city is rectangular, and the streets intersect at right angles, a peculiarity handed down from Roman times, though the area enclosed by the medieval walls is larger than that of the Roman town, which occupied the eastern portion of the present one. The Piazza del Museo marks the site of the forum, and the museum on its north side is ensconced in a Corinthian temple with three cellae, by some attributed to Hercules, but more probably the Capitolium of the city, erected by Vespasian in A.D. 73 (if the inscription really belongs to the building; cf. Th. Mommsen in Corp. Inscrip. Lat. v. No. 4312, Berlin, 1872), and excavated in 1823. It contains a famous bronze statue of Victory, found in 1826. Scanty remains of a building on the south side of the forum, called the curia, but which may be a basilica, and of the theatre, on the east of the temple, still exist.

Brescia contains many interesting medieval buildings. The castle, at the north-east angle of the town, commands a fine view. It is now a military prison. The old cathedral is a round domed structure of the 10th (?) century erected over an early Christian basilica, which has forty-two ancient columns; and the Broletto, adjoining the new cathedral (a building of 1604) on the north, is a massive building of the 12th and 13th centuries (the original town hall, now the prefecture and law courts), with a lofty tower. There are also remains of the convent of S. Salvatore, founded by Desiderius, king of Lombardy, including three churches, two of which now contain the fine medieval museum, which possesses good ivories. The church of S. Francesco has a Gothic façade and cloisters. There are also some good Renaissance palaces and other buildings, including the Municipio, begun in 1492 and completed by Jacopo Sansovino in 1554–1574. This is a magnificent structure, with fine ornamentation. The church of S. Maria dei Miracoli (1488–1523) is also noteworthy for its general effect and for the richness of its details, especially of the reliefs on the façade. Many other churches, and the picture gallery (Galleria Martinengo), contain fine works of the painters of the Brescian school, Alessandro Bonvicino (generally known as Moretto), Girolamo Romanino and Moretto’s pupil, Giovanni Battista Moroni. The Biblioteca Queriniana contains early MSS., a 14th-century MS. of Dante, &c., and some rare incunabula. The city is well supplied with water, and has no less than seventy-two public fountains. Brescia has considerable factories of iron ware, particularly fire-arms and weapons (one of the government small arms factories being situated here), also of woollens, linens and silks, matches, candles, &c. The stone quarries of Mazzano, 8 m. east of Brescia, supplied material for the monument to Victor Emmanuel II. and other buildings in Rome. Brescia is situated on the main railway line between Milan and Verona, and has branch railways to Iseo, Parma, Cremona and (via Rovato) to Bergamo, and steam tramways to Mantua, Soncino, Ponte Toscolano and Cardone Valtrompia.

The ancient Celtic Brixia, a town of the Cenomani, became Roman in 225 B.C., when the Cenomani submitted to Rome. Augustus founded a civil (not a military) colony here in 27 B.C. , and he and Tiberius constructed an aqueduct to supply it. In 452 it was plundered by Attila, but was the seat of a duchy in the Lombard period. From 1167 it was one of the most active members of the Lombard League. In 1258 it fell into the hands of Eccelino of Verona, and belonged to the Scaligers (della Scala) until 1421, when it came under the Visconti of Milan, and in 1426 under Venice. Early in the 16th century it was one of the wealthiest cities of Lombardy, but has never recovered from its sack by the French under Gaston de Foix in 1512. It belonged to Venice until 1797, when it came under Austrian dominion; it revolted in 1848, and again in 1849, being the only Lombard town to rally to Charles Albert in the latter year, but was taken after ten days’ obstinate street fighting by the Austrians under Haynau.

See Museo Bresciano Illustrato (Brescia, 1838).  (T. As.)